barque Joseph Craig
Whangarei River. Circa 1905.
Oil on board (800 x 600)mm
The Northern Company steamer Waitangi is alongside the old Marsden Wharf. This now is the site of the timber wharves and oil refinery near the mouth of the river. Across the river are the spectacular volcanic extrusions of Whangarei Heads with Mt.Manaia on the right.
In the 19th. century and in the early years of the 20th., before road transport became predominant, small steamers such as the Waitangi provided the main means of coastal transport.
The Joseph Craig was launched in 1878 as the Duneblane, an iron barque of 751 gross tons, for D.& W.Henderson of Glasgow, under these owners she traded to Australia. In 1896, after her final voyage under this ownership, a voyage which took her to New Zealand, she was sold to Russian owners, and then shortly after, to Italians.
In 1902 the Dunblane was bought by Captain J.A.Walker of Adelaide and until 1907 traded to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In that year she was bought by J.J.Craig and handed over in Adelaide. In May, with a cargo of tanning bark and gypsum she sailed for Lyttlelton in New Zealand, arriving there on 25 June. The barque was handed over to Captain D.J.Stuart and renamed Joseph Craig. While in the trans-Tasman trade she twice raced and beat the Louisa Craig, once from Bass Straight into Port Phillip and the second time from Newcastle N.S.W. to Auckland.
In 1914 the Joseph Craig was sold to Huddart Parker Ltd. and handed over to them in Melbourne. The new owners had intended to turn her into a coal hulk but she made two more voyages to New Zealand. On her final and disastrous voyge in a squall while approaching Auckland's North Head, she grounded on Rough Rock located not far off the headland. She was taking water but was towed off and drydocked where it was found she only had one fractured plate, which was repaired.
Once the repairs were complete she loaded a part load of timber and was sailed round to the Hokianga, a difficult bar harbour on the North Island west coast. On the 6 August she completed her cargo and was towed down from Rangiora to just inside the heads to anchor and wait for favorable conditions to get out to sea. The next morning, the weather being fine, she was towed out through the heads where she set all fore and aft sail. Unfortunately, while crossing the bar a heavy squall took her aback, the towline parted, and despite Captain Airey's attempts to set a squaresail and re-enter and then to anchor, she went aground on rocks near the entrance. Attempts were made to lighten ship by jettisoning deck cargo but with heavy seas sweeping over her and the masts threatening to come down, the crew managed to get off in the remaining lifeboat and, with the aid of oil on the sea, the 17 crew with two cats fought their way 300 yards to the beach. There they were taken care of by the settlers and Maoris. By the following day the Joseph Craig had almost entirely broken up.
A court of Inquiry in Auckland found the Captain had committed an error of judgement in attemting to return to port instead of immediately dropping anchors.